Road trips and airline travel are staples of modern life – and just like everyone else, I LOVE me a good road trip!
As for my body – it has other ideas of fun. After about 2 hours, it starts to complain – loudly!
But the fact is, I – and most of you reading this – live in North America where covering a lot of distance is a fact of life. So what’s a body to do?
Since you won’t be able to give your body exactly what it wants, let’s focus on the things you CAN do to minimize discomfort. (I’m writing this at the request of a wonderful colleague who is going to be taking a 24-hour drive to see family in Mexico – a level of road-tripping I can only admire)
Before the trip
To make sure your body gets through your travels unscathed, it’s a good idea to start out as limber as possible. That means getting as much movement in before the trip as you can.
I like to make the day before the trip a challenging exercise day and spend as much time outdoors as I can. If at all possible, get out and walk, run or at least stretch your legs before the trip. (If I’m not the one driving or if I’m taking a flight, I like to do a really hard workout and get a little less sleep than I’d prefer – which makes it easier to rest and sleep during the trip.)
During the trip
Of course, the first rule of the road is to take frequent breaks. Every time you do, see if you can walk around a bit, do a few jumping jacks, a rolldown or two … anything that will get your blood flowing and your whole body moving. (This also helps you stay awake!9
While you’re in the car, your space is limited, but there’s quite a bit of movement you can still do. Just please be careful and don’t do these while you’re behind the wheel!
Start each of these exercises by drawing yourself up tall as though you were trying to touch the ceiling with the crown of your head (depending on your car make/model and your size, you might!) and rooting down evenly through both “sitbones”.
- Rotate your head to the left and then to the right. Try to focus on moving the chin to the side rather than tilting your head.
- Draw your left ear towards your left shoulder while drawing the right shoulder down away from the right ear. Hold for a few seconds, then repeat on the other side.
- Push your head into the headrest (think “make a double chin” so you’re not tilting your head back) to lengthen the back of the neck and reduce stiffness from the dreaded “forward head posture”.
- Place your left hand on your right shoulder. Keeping the shoulder blades down. Place your right hand on your elbow and gently pull the left arm towards the right shoulder. (I said GENTLY!:))
- Clasp both elbows to make a square and draw that shape in a giant circle in front of you, first to one side, then to the other.
- Roll your shoulders – 3x back and 3x forward.
- Interlace your hands in front of you, turn the palms out and reach forward as far as you can, rounding the back. (If you’re in the back seat, you can also place both hands wide on the seat in front of you and push against it – careful with this one to not annoy the person in front of you. That goes doubly in a plane!!)
- Do a seated cobra by placing your hands on your knees and lifting your chest to the ceiling. Breathe in, then come out of the pose and repeat.
- Drape your left arm over your head and place your left hand on your right ear. Side-bend to the right, try to lengthen the entire left side and feel a lift under the right side ribs.
- Tuck your tailbone under and curl your back into the seat. Reverse and flow in and out several times.
- Shift your weight to your left buttock. Hold 5 seconds. Shift your weight to the right buttock. Hold 5 seconds. Repeat.
- Cross your right knee over your left, place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand to the outside of your hip. Lengthen the spine and twist from bottom to top. Reverse. (This can also be done without crossing your legs.)
- Cross your left ankle over your right knee, flexing the foot (to protect the knee). Gently draw the knee out. Hinge forward from the hips for an extra stretch. Repeat on the other side.
- Lift the left leg off the floor, hold the shin and make big circles with your ankles, going for the biggest possible range of motion. Move in slow motion. 3x to each side.
- “Run” in place by hinging slightly forward at the hips, lifting one heel off and then switching legs, Move quickly to get your calves pumping blood back up to your heart! (They’re your “second heart” and this will help prevent blood clots and keep you awake!)
- … and of course, don’t forget to wriggle your toes every chance you get. 🙂
I live in Nashville, but that doesn’t mean I can carry a tune in a bucket. That said, I CAN tell you that singing keeps your diaphragm working, your blood flowing, your mood up and your blood oxygenated – plus it’s fun and gives you so much energy! Just do it whenever you can!
After the trip
Just one word of advice – get out (ideally outdoors) as quickly as you can and start walking or running. Definitely try not to sit any more than you absolutely have to.
If you’re visiting relatives in a “sitting” culture like mine (I was born in southern Germany, and people LOVE to sit for hours and visit), see if you can take half an hour to take a walk, bike or stretch for a while. Maybe you can talk one of your family members into taking a walk or a bike ride together? Or maybe you can attend a local Pilates or yoga class, do one online, or even get out on the water and paddleboard – the possibilities are infinite, you just have to look around and see what works!
When traveling for business, how about setting up a walking meeting? If you’re stuck in a hotel on the outskirts of town, try to at least hit the gym or find a pool. You don’t have to do anything fancy. Just get walking on the treadmill, do a few calf raises, bust out some yoga (or Pilates!!) moves or swim a few laps/splash around a little. I promise it will improve your sleep and make you feel SO much better the next day than if you give in to the temptation of directly hitting a bar or restaurant or going straight to bed!
Give it a try and let me know how it goes!